COQUILLE — Sammie Huffman can’t wait until next June, when she represents Oregon in the Miss Collegiate America pageant.
Through an unexpected sequence of events, it will actually be the Coquille High School graduate’s second time in pageant, but first as Miss Oregon Collegiate America.
“I got involved with the program accidentally,” said Huffman, who was in the national pageant in September as Miss Wyoming, a title gifted to her by her best friend.
“I really enjoyed the national pageant,” Huffman said. “I came back and wanted to represent Oregon.”
And on Oct. 24, she earned that chance when she won the title in the Miss Oregon Jr. High, High School and Collegiate America pageant.
Huffman is a pageant veteran, having been part of the Miss Coos County scholarship program since she was 13.
Along the way she twice won the Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen, in 2017 and 2019. In between the two, she was Miss Coquille Valley Outstanding Teen.
Those same three years, her best friend, Katie Eskildson, earned titles in the Klamath Falls area, and she and Huffman became good friends at the state pageants.
This past year, on the recommendation of Oregon’s coordinator, Eskildson earned the title of Miss Wyoming, which doesn’t have a state pageant. Eskildson went through all the preparations and fundraising for the national pageant, which was supposed to be in June. But then the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay of the national event until September, when Eskildson was committed to activities with her college volleyball team. So she invited Huffman to take her place.
“She found out she couldn’t go and had paid for everything,” Huffman said.
Once she got back from the national pageant in Arkansas, she registered for Oregon’s pageant.
And then she won the competition, which included three components — a runway (modeling) portion, an interview, and an evening gown portion with an on-stage question.
One thing she likes about the pageant is its anti-bullying platform, BRAVE (Building Respect and Value for Everyone).
“Bullying is something literally everyone has experience with, either through witnessing or being bullied,” Huffman said. “It’s a way for all the title holders to support one cause.”
Huffman added an element though, that is fitting with her other passion, the environment — she is double-enrolled at Southwestern Oregon Community College and Oregon State University studying fisheries and wildlife.
During the pageant she talked about how she would educate people through Zoom, reading and outdoor activities, “but also to get people to understand it’s not just people being bullied, but also the environment.”
Now Huffman has eight months to spread her message around the state.
A big component of the Miss Collegiate America pageant is service, and that’s something that comes naturally to Huffman already.
During high school, in addition to being involved in pageants, she also was active in the theater and as a cheerleader. Now she is reaching out to classrooms, organizations and events where she can bring awareness to the need for kindness to one another and the environment.
Her goal is to do at least one event or other service opportunity per week — she’s already done six events since winning the title.
This week, that included taking part in a Veterans Day parade in Roseburg, but her favorite to date was helping decorate a Christmas tree in Florence for the Oregon Coast Veteran’s Museum’s annual auction.
“There’s an award at the national level and scholarship given out for doing the most service and the most meaningful community service,” she said.
That’s part of a hectic schedule that includes her freshman year of college (all online because of the pandemic), two jobs to help pay for college and to get to the pageant next summer and being an intern for the Coquille Watershed Association.
But it’s one she embraces.
“BRAVE is such a universal platform and being bullied or being a bully is something everyone can relate to,” she said. “In my opinion, the environment is also a victim of bullying, and I want to bring awareness to the importance of being kind to one another and the space we live in, because they both need it.”